The Essay Question
- The starting point for any piece of research is normally the question or title of the assignment.
- However brilliant the essay, it must answer the question or it will not succeed.
- If you are following a question or title that your tutor has set you, then you must make sure that you follow the instructions given in the wording of the title.
A Photojournalist must ‘get the picture’. Does the End justify the Means?
- Subject matter or topic – the general subject area that the assignment must be written about.
- Aspect or focus – the particular angle of the subject matter that you are expected to write about.
- Restriction or expansion of the subject matter – the parameters of the topic; what limits to the subject matter are implied in the question.
- Viewpoint – some questions may require you to approach the answer from a particular point of view.
Organise your Research
- If you have absolutely no idea of what essay topic you want to cover, then doing a bit of background research first is a good way of finding out what has been written about in the past, or what are currently ‘hot topics of discussion’.
- To analyse your assignment title further you can divide the subject area up into a number of separate concepts, which then make up the whole.
- Concepts and Synonyms in the essay title: Photojournalism, Working Practice (Means), Photographs (Ends).
- The concepts and synonyms that you define become the keywords used in searching for information. Thus, when you perform a literature search, the relevant items you retrieve are those that include these specific words.
Features of an Essay
- Be formal in language and form
- Be written primarily in the third person
- Have citations and a bibliography or list of references
- But an essay should be first and foremost an argument.
- “My course is better than the one at the University of X”
This is not an argument – it is an opinion.
- “The course at the University of X is poor because: it is too theoretical, timely feedback is not provided, and it does not challenge students’ imaginations…”
This is an argument
- Your essay should have a clear statement of the argument – known as a thesis statement. This should come at the end of the introductory paragraph.
- This sentence can then ‘drive’ the essay.
- Guide the reader about what is going to be argued
- Focus the writer on what must be argued and supported.
- The rest of the essay will develop the argument with reasons and examples.
- The test for including any information should be…
- “Does this contribute to the development of the thesis statement or not?“
- In essay writing it is not so much what is argued but the clarity and the quality of the argument which counts.